Female in Focus: Joanna Milter on championing a gender-equal photography industry


The Director of Photography at The New Yorker and Female in Focus 2021 judge discusses the importance of women’s perspectives on the world, and what she’s hoping to see in this year’s award entries

Female in Focus is a global award recognising women’s extraordinary contribution to contemporary photography. Enter the 2021 edition now.

How do you ensure that The New Yorker champions work from a multitude of different perspectives?

Assigning and featuring the work of a diverse group of photographers is part of our daily practice. Most of our commissions go to photographers from traditionally underrepresented groups, and many of the projects featured on Photo Booth (our photo column) are from female, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ photographers. Our photo team is constantly on the lookout for photographers who tell stories from different perspectives. 

© Carmen Daneshmandi, Female in Focus 2020 Single Image Winner.

In what ways have you seen the industry improve for women throughout your career?

When I started as a photo editor in 2004, the traditional photography gatekeepers were magazines, agencies, galleries, book publishers, and photography graduate programs. While these institutions are still around, it’s now possible to show your photography to thousands of people through a well-curated Instagram account. Social platforms, and the internet in general, have brought more attention to female and non-binary photographers. In addition, there’s been a surge of new and exciting photo contests and awards. Organizations like Women Photograph and Firecracker have been crucial; the teams at non-profits do enormous amounts of work to put together photographer databases and grant programs. Photo editors like myself benefit greatly from their hard work; they introduce us to talented female and non-binary photographers from around the globe.

© Sarah Pannell, Female in Focus 2019 Single Image Winner

What advice do you have for women and non-binary photographers thinking of applying to Female in Focus 2021?

If you’re thinking about submitting a series of up to 10 photos, please submit your strongest work. For example, if you only have seven or eight images that really stand out in a series, it’s fine to submit fewer than 10 photos.

For your written statement, please lay out any factual information about the photos at the beginning of the statement. The who/where/when/what/why: who’s in these photos, where are we, when were they taken? I encourage you to give us factual information before you explain any of the themes or subtext of your project. The judges will be looking at hundreds of entries, and when we come upon each project, the first thing we’ll want to know is: what am I seeing here? 

Hear what our other judges have to say on the value of this year’s award, the progress of gender equality and more: meet Holly Fraser, Editor-in-Chief of WePresent, and Emmeline Yong, founder and director of Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film. View the full line-up of Female in Focus 2021 judges here.

Female in Focus champions the work of world-class women and non-binary photographers. Enter today to see your work exhibited in a group show in the US

Deadline for entries: 17 June 2021 – 23:59 (UK Time)

Find out more about Female in Focus here.

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